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Steelhammer: No butts about it

While state laws in West Virginia now encourage the use of hands-free cellphones, a new law may be needed to promote butt-free dialing.

Butt-dialing, known more politely as pocket-dialing or fat-finger dialing, now accounts for roughly 40 percent of the nuisance calls received by New York City's 911 operators, according to the New York Daily News.

The butt-dial gets its name from cellphones being frequently carried in back pockets, where their speed dial and emergency call functions are accidentally triggered by sitting, bumping or other forms of contact.

Of the 10.4 million nonemergency or misdialed calls received annually by 911 operators in New York, 4 million have been attributed to butt-dialers. Nationally, the number of calls placed to 911 centers has increased 26 percent over the past 10 years, due mainly to the ubiquitous use of the ever-present cellphone, bringing the total number of 911 calls up to 240 million, many of them butt-dials.

While the avalanche of butt-dialed calls must have 911 call center workers pulling out their hair, there is the occasional diamond among the telephonic lumps of coal. In August, a Scranton, Pa., man inadvertently butt-dialed city police while conducting a transaction with his drug dealer. Police recorded the conversation, traced the call and allegedly found a quantity of illegal drugs and weapons at the butt-dialer's home.

Since my cellphone rarely leaves my car, I think it's unlikely that I've contributed to the national butt-dialing dilemma. But, come to think of it, the only butt-dialed calls I remember receiving were actually accidental purse-dialed or console-dialed calls from my wife, sent while she was driving. I could tell the call originated from her car, because of the distinctive buzzing from a faulty speaker that occurs during NPR station breaks or when any recording that includes a bass guitar is playing.

On the rare occasions when I'm packing a cellphone, it stays in my front pocket. It's not so much that I want to risk an accidental misdial, but that I don't want to guarantee its disintegration by carrying it in my back pocket and sitting down.

***

As I took one of several breaks while tapping out this gibberish late Friday, I came across the story about a giant eyeball washing up on the shore at Pompano Beach, Fla.

There was some speculation that the volleyball-sized orb may have belonged to a giant, and possibly very irritated, squid. But given the location of the find, I have another theory:

Could it be the eye of a newly formed hurricane?


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